Meet the new Charlie, same as the old Charlie.
Charlie Sheen (Wall Street) was the best thing about the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. His character Charlie Harper was loathsome, but at the same time likeable, and once he parted ways with the show after a very public dispute with the series’ creator Chuck Lorre, it became quite apparent that Sheen was the glue that held together that shaky foundation. His subsequent breakdown after he departed caused some to wonder if Sheen would end up another Hollywood statistic. Charlie is a survivor however, and landed on his feet with this FX sitcom. I wanted to like this show, because Two and a Half Men had been one of my guilty pleasures when Sheen was onboard, unfortunately the forces that aligned to make that show somewhat amusing have abandoned this new project. Anger Management is a predictable mess, that produces more groans and eye rolls than laughs; proving that Sheen needs Two and a Half Men as much as it needs him.
Charlie Goodson (Sheen) is a former ball player whose new vocation is that of anger management therapist to a group of four odd ball patients who all struggle with anger in one way or another. Patrick (Michael Arden, Source Code), a personal shopper is passive aggressive; Ed (Barry Corbin, Northern Exposure), a Vietnam vet is angry about everything; Nolan (Derek Richardson, Hostel), gets a perverse thrill out of others anger, but never gets angry himself; and Lacey (Noureen DeWulf, Ocean’s Thirteen) was ordered by the court to get anger management counseling after she shot her cheating boyfriend. Along with the struggles of being a divorced dad, co-parenting with his bitter ex-wife Jennifer (Shawnee Smith, Saw), and engaging in an ill-advised relationship with his own personal therapist Kate, played by Selma Blair (Hellboy), Charlie has more than just his anger to manage.
Sheen’s character Charlie in Anger Management, is simply Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men — only now instead of writing commercial jingles he is a group therapist. This 10 episode DVD features Sheen doing much of the same old shtick that he employed in Men, and like his previous alter ego, this Charlie is an untrustworthy rake who cares more about himself than anyone else, and changes women like he changes his clothes. The single difference between the two Charlies is that in Anger Management he’s a divorced father, where in Men he has an intense dislike for the little crumb crunchers. His daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), is an obsessive compulsive teen who’s cute but forgettable; hopefully this is a springboard for her career. The writing is bad, the plots uninteresting, and Sheen’s performance is flat — as flat as the stale jokes that must be accompanied by a distracting and intrusive laugh track in order to get a chuckle.
I’ve often enjoyed Shawnee Smith in other roles, most notably as Linda in the ’90s sitcom Becker. She can be quite funny with that nasally voice and dry wit, but as Jennifer, Charlie’s ex-wife, she is nothing more than a ditzy foil for Charlie, and a mom who prides herself on how many men she’s slept with. Jennifer is the female Charlie, who also changes partners as often as is humanly possible; all that’s needed now, is a running tally at the bottom of the screen to see who’s had the most sex. In fact sleeping around is the modus operandi of the entire cast of Anger Management, while Smith is the slutty mom, Selma Blair is the resident slutty therapist. Charlie and Kate have to hide a romantic relationship frowned upon because they have a professional one. This is supposed to be titillating and the cause of much onscreen sexual tension, but Kate and Charlie have no chemistry whatsoever, and because of this the love scenes are uncomfortable to watch.
Members of the therapy group are just punchlines dressed up like people, everything they say is meant to illicit laughs. These one dimensional cardboard cut outs are merely window dressing for the shows’ star. Barry Corbin who plays Ed, the ornery Vietnam vet, is the funniest character in the entire cast; maybe its Corbin’s years of experience that can make his character interesting in this bland bowl of gruel disguised as a sitcom. Other veterans on board are Michael Boatman (Spin City) as Charlie’s neighbor, and a blast from the past Miss Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire), as the neighborhood bartender. There are also guest appearances by Charlie’s real life ex-wife Denise Richards (Starship Troopers), who is curiously enough, a love interest of Charlie; as well as Martin Sheen (The West Wing) who plays Charlie’s estranged father.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is standard television fare, a crisp and clear picture that highlights the bright lights and colorful sets in TV land. The clean Dolby 5.1 Surround track makes the jokes easier to hear, but with these jokes you may prefer to watch with the mute button engaged. Extras include a gag reel, an in depth interview with Charlie Sheen (who looks well and seems genuinely excited by this new project), and a meet and greet with the cast.
The only way I could get through all of the episodes of Anger Management: Season One, was with cake — lots of cake. So not only was it just another two-bit run of the mill sitcom, but it’s partly responsible for me going off my diet. Thanks Charlie!
Not Winning! Just Guilty.